The Berberian Sound Studio is a movie that is truly unafraid to mess with your head. For that alone Strickland should be commended. So few films these days are willing to push the limits of cinema to the point where the audience is not only enthralled by totally confused. David Lynch would be proud.
The plot is simple enough. In the 1960s a sound engineer that likes to keep to himself named Gilderoy (played by the always amazing and underrated Toby Jones) finds himself working on a particularly gruesome Italian horror film. As he gets drawn deeper into the world of the sound studio life seems to be imitating art as his life gets turned upside and the lines between reality and fiction blur. Although relatively straightforward, the film itself really shines between the lines.
This is a movie that needs to be seen with the lights off and the television cranked on high. It is sound, more than anything, which permeates through the entire film. Watching Gilderoy and his crew create the screams and splatters of the movie manages to be just as unsettling as watching them take place in the film itself.
“Sound is really all about context,” director Peter Strickland told Press Pass LA in an exclusive interview. “I wanted to show people what happens when we create a movie but put it into a much darker environment. I found that gave the film a strangely weird dimension and allowed us a great way to tell the story.”
Strickland is no novice to the world of sound either. As a member of the avant-garde Sonic Catering Band, he employed raw sounds from the cooking and preparing of a meal to create electronic music for their albums. He takes much the same approach here, using things like watermelons, lettuce, spiders, and cooking oil to give the audience a sense of impending doom and horror. While it might sound simplistic it works amazingly well on screen. “I wanted to get into the world of people who are fascinated with sound. I wanted to make a movie where the sound was something you could touch,” he explains with passion.
The truth is that Berberian Sound Studio is a film that should really be enjoyed on the big screen. Between the cinematography that seems to be paying homage to slow tension of Hitchcock to the intensity of the sounds that emanate from the screen the ideal spot for this film should be in a movie theater with a crowd. Unfortunately the movie will only be available on the small screen. It is a pity but hopefully the movie brings Strickland the attention he deserves so his masterpiece can one day grace the silver screen.
Berberian Sound Studio is available on IFC’s VOD and Digital Download June 14. Watch the trailer on iTunes.